Rangeley Lakes Scenic Byway
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2000)
- Intrinsic QualitiesRecreation
- Length52 miles
Visitors will discover the beauty of the western mountains of Maine while travelling the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway. Along the byway, there are many opportunities to explore richly wooded forests, brisk mountain streams, farm fields, and a chain of lakes and ponds. The byway passes through over 40,000 acres of conserved public access lands, which offer scenic beauty and multi-season recreational opportunities.
Story of the Byway
The Rangeley Lakes Region, the Byway’s namesake, has been recognized as a beautiful frontier for generations. In the early 1800s, the region was settled by a small number of hardy pioneers and woodsmen. Although the region had initially been rugged and remote, the region grew slowly, sustaining about a dozen family farms and lumber mills throughout the first half of the century. By the 1860s, fishermen from cities along the eastern seaboard discovered 10 to 12 lbs brook trout swimming in this region’s pristine waters. The discovery altered the small community forever. As word began to spread about the region’s unparalleled fishing and rugged beauty, large numbers of sportsmen and their families began to journey to the region annually. Travelling by trains, buckboards, and steamships and accompanied by their servants and nannies, enter families flocked to the region for three-month summer vacations, sustaining a bustling tourism economy. By 1925, the Rangeley Lakes Region had become a beloved, premier destination resort for many visitors, including a host of U.S. presidents, from all corners of the nation.
Today, the region is well loved by local residents and visitors for its wide array of activities that extend throughout the year. Visitors will enjoy exploring the region’s cultural history and outstanding scenic, natural, and recreational resources, which are available during all four seasons. Visitors can kick off the summer months with a host of festivals, concerts, and museums--all while enjoying outdoor recreation activities such as boating, hiking, fishing, bicycling, and wildlife watching. Hikers will enjoy travelling along the famous Appalachian Trail, which crosses both Routes 4 and 17 and provides recreational access to the extensive trail system and to many of the highest peaks in the area. As the seasons shift to autumn, which paints the surrounding mountains in red and gold, visitors come to enjoy leaf watching, hiking, and hunting in the refreshing Maine air. In Rangeley Village, they will find cups of fresh squeezed cider from the Apple Festival and tours of the Wilhelm Reich Museum and the Rangeley Lakes Region Logging Museum to round out an autumn drive on the Rangeley Lakes National Scenic Byway. Winter arrives early, a paradise for snow lovers as the region is often covered in 12 feet of snow. Though it may seem cold, the region is hot with activity from Christmas fairs to concerts to the annual “Snodeo” festival. Visitors to the byway will join a host of skiers, snowmobilers, and ice skaters and have the opportunity to explore the beauty of Maine’s winter recreation. Nearby the byway are to nationally renown slopes, Saddleback and Sugarloaf mountains, which both have opportunities for all levels of skill. Along the way, visitors may encounter snowmobilers. Many snowmobilers use the trails in the area for long-distance travel, some even going beyond the U.S.-Canadian border. As the temperatures rise and the snow thaws into spring, visitors will enjoy unparalleled scenery as they take in the beautiful wildflowers and majestic lupine, all while enjoying the region’s fishing, hiking, and wildlife watching.
The byway begins just north of Byron on state route 17. Visitors will cross the Appalachian Trail as they travel north to Oquossoc. This portion of the byway will have scenic views of Rangeley Lake. The byway then heads east on state route 16 toward Rangeley, paralleling the lake most of the way. From Rangeley, the byway goes south on state route 4 to Smalls Falls.
Points of Interest
The famous trail across the Appalachian Mountains crosses Routes 4 and 17 and provides access to recreational hiking.
Saddleback Ski Resort
Saddleback Mountain Ski Resort reopened in 2020 and provides skiers with a vertical drop of 2,000’ and 66 runs.
Wilhelm Reich Museum
The Wilhelm Reich Museum is both a nature preserve and museum, featuring the physician-scientist's home and labratory.
Outdoor Fun at Rangeley Lakes
Begin your route just north of Houghton on Maine Route 17, which you will follow north. Soon after you begin, make a stop at the Height of Land, a large view area with an expansive look at the sprawling Rangeley Lakes region and the mountains beyond. This area borders the Appalachian trail. Take the opportunity to stretch your legs by going along a small portion of the famous trail.
Continue north to Oquossoc, a quaint village that borders Rangeley Lake and Mooselookmeguntic Lake. If you’re visiting in the summer, take the time to go swimming or enjoy a number of other available outdoor recreation activities. From Oquossoc, head west to Rangeley, the main town along the byway.
Explore the downtown of this historic resort village. There are many opportunities for fun on Rangeley Lake and within the town itself. Go bowling, shop, or stop to eat in this cozy town. In the summer there are endless events, festivals, and concerts in this town.
From Rangley, continue south on Maine Route 4 toward Madrid. Shortly after you cross over the Appalachian trail for a second time, you will reach Smalls Falls, a great place to hike with a scenic view of the falls. Although this is where the byway ends, there are many opportunities to continue the adventure in this area.
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